Why it’s So F*ing Hard to Be a Freelance Writer

Carol Tice

Exhausted businessman with computer on head

With all the useful tips on how to become a freelance writer I’ve posted on this blog, you’d think I could sign off and be done. I just checked, and there are nearly 500 posts on here!

Yet, each week I hear from writers with new questions. Why?

It’s not easy becoming a freelance writer.

Writers are always asking me:

What is the one best, cheapest, low-cost, fastest way for me to market my writing and find great pay?

But there isn’t one single, simple answer to that.

What we’re trying to do isn’t easy — to find a place for ourselves in a rapidly evolving freelance marketplace.

The challenges of freelancing

Here are some of the common obstacles freelance writers encounter:

There is one advantage to the complex world of freelancing — if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

So that cuts the herd a bit for those of us who have the cunning, the tenacity, and the gumption to make freelance writing our living.

What do you think is the hardest thing about being a freelance writer? Add your reason to the comments.

 

82 Comments

  1. Neil

    Fear is still the biggest key to my success or failure. I have read all your writings and know the score. I have yet to find the big clients, but chock that up to not staying consistent with the self-marketing.

    Like Rob, I came out of the content mills and realized after finding your site that bigger fish were yet to fry. (Now I want some trout in lemon sauce). Obviously our biggest enemies in this venture is our brain trying to sell us down river with negativity.

    Thank you for a timely and slap in the face approach to freelance writing.

    Neil

  2. Casey

    Great post. I’ve been freelancing and the biggest challenges for me continue to be the uncertainty between booking clients/projects and finding a way to comfortably transition from focusing on client work to more of my own projects. Balancing making money with doing work I’m passionate about is my ultimate goal, but sometimes it seems fears – about money, about failure, about where to begin – stifle some of the creativity in that department. But it’s also a great challenge to address and a good opportunity to set reachable, worthy goals for myself.

    • Carol Tice

      I had that balance to strike every day when I was ramping this blog. But I just kept finding myself writing the blog! I had this gut feeling people needed this information, and it would all pay off in the end. And it did. I think when you have an instinct like that for a writing project of your own, you’ve GOT to make time for it.

      Half the time I’d be thinking, ‘This is nuts…I should just pitch more magazine articles!’ But I definitely wanted the diversity of having my own products, and I’m glad I went for it.

  3. Michael Hicks

    For me, the biggest obstacle was building a bridge
    and getting over myself.

    I’ve been writing the way I talk my entire life. Until last year,
    I wasn’t fully convinced that the writer’s life was a good fit for me.
    Sure, tons of OTHER people were making 6-figures. But they
    weren’t me.

    So finally I said, “To heck with it. Take the plunge.”

    Boy, am I ever glad I made that decision!

    Even if writing for a living eventually results in me
    falling flat on my face, I’d much rather fail on my terms
    than someone else’s. Conversely, this means I have the
    chance to succeed on my terms.

    Bottom line: I made up my mind that I’m worth the risk.
    After all, if I don’t believe that, who else is going to???…

    • Carol Tice

      Ha! I may have to steal that phrase, Michael — great one.

  4. Rob

    The biggest stumbling block for me has been learning to believe it really is possible to make a good living writing. I came out of the content mills and firmly believed $20/500 words was the best you could do unless you had direct inside connections. I wrote off claims to the contrary as advertising hype to sell “sure fire” writing courses. This blog was the first one I found that rang true to me, but it wasn’t until a former editor clued me in that I was asking for too little that I started to believe. My jaw dropped recently when a received a contract and saw that their rates started at $100/300+ words for blogs. Now I really am a believer.

    ps: Carol, thanks for the tactful email reply!

    • Carol Tice

      Hey no problem, Rob — I get that all the time.

      I think one of the biggest activities in the Den is writers discovering what real rates are, and it’s often a big shock if you come out of mills. You get a skewed view of what you deserve.

      And…blog post rates SHOULD start at $100 a post! That’s what I got on my first paid blogging gig. I think it really doesn’t pencil out to a viable hourly rate below there.

    • BobWarnick-Wordsmith

      Carol:
      I enjoyed the blog but fail to see the necessity of the kind of headline you used. I really see no need for profanity in a headline, even if you’re using code. I’m sure you don’t have a weak vocabulary. I recognize I’m old school, but I’m glad I still have a negative reaction to offensive language. You should too, especially as a Den Mother.

    • Katherine Swarts

      Reminds me of a couple of articles I’ve read advocating the thesis, “Find alternate ways to describe profanity and violence in your fiction stories; it’s not just a matter of ‘clean’ writing, it’s an escape from the cliche trap.” Of course, a ten-word title is different from a 500-word story scene, but it’d be interesting (though probably off-topic to do it here) to share ideas on expressing frustration without resorting to the same old tired words. I grew up in a household where even D-A-M-N would get your mouth scrubbed with soap; and now R-rated words have become as unnoticed and automatic as the word “the.”

    • Carol Tice

      Since I’ve used profanity in a headline maybe twice in 500 posts, guess it didn’t feel cliche-ish to me. Just trying to tap into the heartfelt agony of so many writers I know. And as was pointed out to me on Twitter, I could be saying “freaking”…

      And I’m just back from checking my stats, which showed me the f*ing post got about 50% more traffic than is typical for a Monday post around here. Hmm….

  5. Heidi Thorne

    Glad to see I have company on so many of the points!

    Support and understanding from family and friends can often be low, especially when they are used to “regular paycheck” jobs. But this doesn’t just apply to writing, it applies to anyone who is in business for himself (or herself). The need to build a support network for your freelancing is oh so necessary.

    As well, as my Sobcon friends Barry Moltz and Becky McCray suggest in their book Small Town Rules, you need to “Plan for Zero.” This strategy alone has made it possible for me to stay in business during economic challenges.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Heidi!

      It’s great advice…when all my editors got fired and publications were folding in 2009, thankfully I knew how to get out and market myself aggressively to find new clients. I also started building this blog — I think more and more writers are seeing that diversification and investment in your own products as a key survival strategy.

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